Two years ago, I booked a ticket from Zurich to Berlin and took off a few hours later. I wrote this a few days into my stay after the culture shock wore off…
I’m going to be honest with you. When I first arrived in Berlin, in the late hours of a foggy Sunday night, exhausted from never ending delayed flight delays and a dinner that consisted of a Starbucks Americano and a handful of dates, I immediately hated it.
I didn’t just hate the vast empty streets that the cramped airport bus shuttle had driven past. I hated the somewhat musty smell, I hated the opressive, blocky, unbeautiful buildings and I immediately loathed the intimidating street lights that seemed to echo years of misery with every illumination we drove past.
“Crap,” I had thought in my sleep deprived state. “I’ve got two weeks of this to endure.”
So it seemed that Berlin and I would not get along. The next morning, I ventured outside my hotel in the heart of the city to see what it had to offer.
The centre was teeming with people who preffered methods of communication such as ‘glare and stare’ rather than smiling. Every other person seemed to have a beer in their hand. I couldn’t see a tree for miles, just cold hard concrete. Everything was grey. I felt like an alien walking through Alexander Platz, surrounded by folk who seemingly bore no resemblance to me.
What’s more, Berlin was huge. I was overwhelmed by its energy – I phoned my best friend the following morning to tell her I was terrified. I meant it. My comfort zone was back in luxurious safe Zurich and now, I had been shoved well and truly out of it.
It took me about two days and several naps to recover from the initial culture shock. I began exploring. I took what I saw in my stride. I was no longer afraid – I began to see Berlin for what it was. A hive of creativity, especially in the Eastern districts. A community of rule breaking.
Berlin taught me that appearances can be deceiving – and that in a city that has turned turmoil into tourism, throwing yourself head first into a new world can be exactly what we need.
Berlin has a style of its own. It’s a little grimy, a little obscure and above all, unique. It does what it wants – and it’s constantly changing. It’s also a playground of contrasts. You’ll find poverty mingled with decadence, graffiti slathered upon archaic structures and a clash of past history with a youthful, unstoppable energy.
Playing it safe has no place in Berlin. Staying in your bubble is simply not an option. You have to keep going, you have to throw yourself into the city’s rapid pace.
As far as its people goes, they are not rude or aggressive as I had initially presumed. People approach things differently here – you can’t confuse culture with politeness. Things operate against the grain. I suppose the saying, ‘actions speak louder than words,’ summarises this best.
So the point of all of my rambling is not about my hatred for Berlin. It’s about my love for it. It’s taught me that it’s absolutely fine to be a little obscure. Being different makes us successful. Most importantly, it’s cracked my comfort zone.
Now, I’m far less cautious of the unknown – instead, I am curious.